A review of J.K. Rowling’s Movie “Fantastic Beasts:  The Crimes of Grindelwald”


“The Crimes of Grindelwald” is the latest contribution to J.K. Rowling’s Fantastic Beasts film series. In the film Newt Scamander, a famous “magizoologist”, a magician (like Harry Potter) and a zoologist who rescues and cares for mythical creatures, huge and tiny, becomes entangled through the good graces of a young Albus Dumbledore (later headmaster of Hogwarts School of Magic) in an attempt to contain the evil doings of Gellert Grindelwald, a dark magician who was also Dumbledore’s contemporary and friend.

The setting moves from New York (the location for Newt’s earlier adventures in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”) to London and Paris.  Several characters from the first film also turn up in Paris:  Queenie Goldstein and her baker boyfriend Jacob Kowalski, her sister Tina who is Newt’s girlfriend and accomplice, Credence a focal character in the film, and Grindelwald himself.

Viewers also meet some new characters:  Newt’s brother Theseus and his fiancé, Leta L’Estrange, Nagani, an accomplice of Grindelwald (and later of Voldemort), and assorted magical animals.

The prevention of the evil doings of Grindelwald drives the action of the film.  It is complex since Rowling is not only telling the story of Grindelwald’s past and current crimes, but also preparing the background for those to come in future films.  A viewer needs to keep his or her attention fixed on the action in order to follow the complicated plot and the fast-moving adventures of the characters new and old.

One almost wishes that there was such a thing as “rewind” in the cinema just to get everything straight.  But, of course, this is the on-going fun of puzzling it all out, and seeing how the pieces fit together.

J.K. Rowling seems to me to be an amazing woman, almost magical herself.  Not only did she  provide a sequel to the Potter novels and films in her two part drams, “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, and a multi-film prequel in the Fantastic Beasts films, but she has also authored five novels, four of them in the Cormorant Strike detective series.  Each of these witnesses to an astonishing amount of research and creativity on her part and that of her associates.

The Fantastic Beasts’ films are examples of this research and Rowling’s attentive relevance to contemporary world problems – environmental, social, political, psychological, philosophical and theological.  Newt Scamander is concerned not only with the preservation and care of mythical animals, but also with world order, the effects of crime and misused power.

An analysis of her stories and characters would provide evidence for Rowling’s concern for the environment, government, law-and-order, and psychological illness and well-being.  I am sorry that we have to wait until 2020 for more of Scamander and his adventures, but in the meantime I am also sure that there will be other treats!

Joseph Schner, SJ, is a professor of Psychology and Religion at the Toronto School of Theology.

  • Peter Bisson, SJ
    Posted at 18:09h, 18 January Reply

    Thank you Joe!

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